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Transformation Calls in Isolation

Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds onto life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.

John 12:24-25 (The Message)

This unexpected time of quarantine has made me realize just how addicted we are as a nation to maintaining status quo. We are a country of busy people who are hardwired to do whatever we please whenever we please. We have a hard time sitting still in the moment. Author James Bryan Smith calls this “hurry sickness.” To our own detriment, we work hard so we can play hard, and we want whatever the media tells us is bigger, better, or necessary to improve our image or increase our bank account.

Then the coronavirus happened. We were forced to slow down. Isolation, I suspected, would cut down considerably on people’s ability—if not their desire—to stay busy. Naively, I made that prediction without considering the power of celebrity influence.

Last week on social media, Gwyneth Paltrow advised people to use their extra time to learn a language or write a book. Courtney Cox posted a Tik Tok dance video and encouraged others to do the same. Ellen DeGeneres used a photo of her home gym to inspire people to get moving. John Legend was just one of many musicians to stream a mini concert. Other artists provided alternate distractions, like Amy Adams and Jennifer Garner who read stories to children in return for donations to their charities. I could go on, but I won’t.

While none of these things are bad per se, they give the impression that fear and frustration caused by pandemic-instigated isolation can be fought with various avoidance tactics.

Except they can’t.

Before this is over, all of us will be able to say that we knew someone who either died or lost a loved one to COVID-19. There will be overwhelming grief in our world. Economies will struggle to survive as people lose their jobs and families lose their homes. Depression will become the norm for a while, suicides will rise, and no amount of celebrity advice will be able to save us. Only God can do that.

Our God is a God who saves, from the Sovereign Lord comes escape from death. Psalm 68:20

I’m not a famous actress or singer, and I don’t want to be—though at one time I did. However, if I could share one piece of quarantine advice with the masses, I would tell people to use this precious time of solitude to seek Jesus. Rather than only looking for activities to help pass the time, choose to invest in something of lasting value. “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13

So what does seeking God entail? Here are a few ideas: welcome the Holy Spirit into your day before you get out of bed; take time before breakfast to pray for the day ahead and those you love; reach out to those who are lonely; speak only kind and encouraging words; refrain from swearing; extend hospitality where possible; practice anonymous random acts of kindness; acknowledge gratefulness for things you normally take for granted; thank God for the struggles in your life that are bound to help you grow; say a blessing over every meal; read the Bible; listen to Christian music; distance yourself from temptations that will lead to sin; talk to God as you go about your daily activities; extend forgiveness; actively look for signs from God throughout your day; pray with gratitude before you fall asleep each night; worship on Sundays; focus on the positive and not the negative; show love in all situations . . .

This list that has no ending appears long, but the majority of suggestions deal with changing behaviors or attitudes rather than adding something new to your life. Learning something new can be rewarding in the short term, but seeking God helps us become better versions of ourselves for the long haul. Real growth does not come from learning a new skill but from learning more about who we are in Christ.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2

Our world is changing dramatically right before our eyes. Instead of clinging to the status quo and filling every spare moment with busyness, why not use this time to evaluate priorities, behaviors, and relationships? Go ahead and learn a new language, post a dance video, or watch a free concert—but get to know Jesus on a deeper level as well. I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. John 5:24

I know that right now you may feel frustrated and frightened, perhaps weak. But be assured, this pandemic will end. It could be next week, or next month, or next year. Whatever the time period, God is in the waiting, hoping you will meet Him there. So let us keep our eyes fixed on what is eternal and consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4

Wishing you all a transformative and happy Easter!

THE SONG THAT COMES TO MIND IS He Knows My Name by Francesca Battistelli.

Lyrics: "I don't need my name in lights. I'm famous in my Father's eyes."

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